Newbie Questions


 Hello all;


Couple of weeks ago I ventured in to the sourdough/home baking world. I used to bake now and again with dried yeast etc... anyways I got my starter going few weeks ago and had a go at the Home Bread recipe on here, turned out to be a nice 450g loaf. Very edible..  I steamed the oven (small pan of boiling water in the oven, just a normal electric fan oven) and preheated a big terracotta dish (enamelled) in the oven and put the dough on there, the bottom of it was a tad soggy even after 30-35 mins so i turned it upside down to finish it off. 

Anyways some of the recipes I read here call for stretch and fold every hour or so for X amount of times over X hours etc etc.. I work all day, and am out some evenings, so I have to schedule my baking days. I have some general questions as I struggle with time to give the love and attention the dough needs...


What will happen if I leave a dough that I’ve stretched a few times previously, say,  leave it for 8-10 hours in a bowl at room temp (while I'm at work)? Then shape it, put it in the fridge overnight and bake it next evening? or even bring it out for a couple of hours before baking? Or can I just knead for 10 minutes, leave it till it doubles or even leave it in the fridge all night and then bake it? Does leaving and kneading make that much difference or are these just how the recipe is?



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farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 7

Welcome olionel,

SourDom gives a number of potential timelines in his beginners blog so you would be well advised to pick one of those that might suit.  You do have to be mindful that each culture is unique and works at different rates and published timelines are guides only.  You need to take note of how your particular beast works and adjust timings as necessary for that and the time will vary depending on the temperature that you are working at

I think, in general, that retardation is best done after the bulk fermentation and after shaping although there is probably no real reason why the whole process couldn't be done under cool conditions.  That is what happens during the winter time, though not quite so extreme.  You also have to keep in mind that refrigeration only slows things down and does not stop them from happening (although the yeasts and bacteria are affected at different rates so the overall taste will be affected).

Your best bet is to make a few loaves using the same (simple) recipe to get your technique worked out.  While the stretch and fold technique works fine, I have also found that vigourous kneading using the 'French' technique demonstrated by Bertinet (and others) at the beginning followed by bulk fermentation in the bowl works just as well so you don't necessarily have to be there hour after hour.

Hope this helps.  Let us know how you go.


olionel 2011 December 7

Thanks for the reply.. as soon as I posted my question yesterday I had a read about over proofing... Thats what happened yesterday (and also seems like my first loaf suffered from the same but not as bad), I left it in the warm part of the flat, it had doubled in size and stayed like that for a few hours, and it made a not so good loaf, a bit soggy. I'll give suggested threads/methods a read. Also ( I know I shouldn't but) I followed a recipe or two roughly but they made my dough very wet and is not very workable, I guess rather than exact weights I could judge how much flour I need by it's consistency.. I watched a few videos on shaping batards and the dough there seem way more workable than my last 2 attempts. Although this could be because I left mine laying around for a few hours.


Many thanks, 


chazzone 2011 December 9

 I've been doing my bulk proofing in the fridge lately, and getting great results.  I feed my starter on Sunday, make my loaf (s) Monday, then right into the refrigerator.  I'll stretch and fold once or twice on Tuesday, then several times on Wednesday, before I give it the final shaping and return to the refrigerator.  I get it out Thursday afternoon and let it warm and finish the final proof.

It works great with a hectic schedule, since I don't have to put too much time in at any one time.



olionel 2011 December 27

 hello again; 

My loaves are getting better-er... yeys. All edible bar one until now (it wasnt quite done), baking once a week. Anyways, now I am finding the crumb of my bread becomes almost nearly moist overnight ( I just keep in a breathable bag cut side down to prevent drying out and when I toast it the crust toasts and the crumb doesnt toast aswell and the bread feels almost wet (when not toasted obviosuly).. does it absorb moisture or am I not quite baking it enough ? Or is my dough too watery? Or would the bubbling tin of water in the oven make the oven too humid and make the bread absorb too much wet air?


anyways happy baking :-) 

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 28

Hello again olionel,

Good to hear you are having some wins.

I've never had such an experience so I don't have any definite answers.  When you say a 'breathable' bag are you talking about a woven fabric or one of those perforated plastic types?  If the latter, then perhaps the bread is sweating and moisture is migrating from the inside to the surface.  I have found that storage in a bread box/tin is quite satisfactory.

I don't think underbaking or excess steam would be the problem.

On the toasting front, I think to get a nice evenly browned toast, you need some extras in the make-up of the dough.  I think it is to do with the distribution of sugars that determines the browning characteristics and with the simple bread of flour, water, salt and leaven, these are concentrated in the crust and not in the body of the loaf.  I seem to recall reading somewhere that the substitution of milk to the dough for at least some of the liquid will produce a better toasting bread.  Unfortunately, I can't put my hands on it at the moment to confirm.  In any case, not much to lose to give it a try.

Let us know how you go.


olionel 2012 January 2

Hello folks;


On the day I posted my last message I baked a round bread (was OK.. not enough salt :( ), then yesterday I baked 2 batons (my 5th or 6th bread attempt). The batons are my best bake yet so I'm gona attach a couple of photos (at least they tasted nice). I still have some questions though...The batons I made with the Norwich sourdough recipe (well I adjusted it wrt.  the weight of my starter) and used slighlty more % rye and more water as I thought the mix looked a bit too dry (but I don't really know how yet how an ideal mix should be). Sourdoms beginner recipes are with quick action yeast so not sure the timelines there go with sourdough, anyways I do stretch them by a few hours. Here's the photos. (no flash)





 right, this time I got my baking stone really hot and the bottom of the bread was not soft after 30 minutes (yey-1)I did not forget salt (yey-2)my amateur slashy slashy was not too bad (yay-3)tasted of very very nice sour goodness (yey-4)


right now time for some rambly questions... in general in bread recipes there is the "wait till it doubles in size" instruction for bulk ferment... do I need to stick to that? (UK is winter now, so room temp is probably 15C-18C (59F-69F), the rise is slow (my starter seems to rise OK though over 8-12hours). When I was in the bulk ferment stage I stretchet it and folded it in the bowl every now and again 40 mins - to hour) over a few hours, then left it alone halved it, shaped in to rounds left it, then shaped in to batons and fridged them, next morning , take our, slash bake... The thing is these batons are 400g each (quite dense for the size?? since a baguette is 400g standard)


Now looking at the crumb I have big/medium bubbles and lots of small bubbles.. is this because I didn't let it rise enough (double in volume properly? - I get scared of overproofing) or is my starter not strong enough yet to create biggger even pockets?


Also when I took the shaped loaves out of the fridge they had relaxed a bit and had lost their roundess, should have a reshaped or was baking the right decision? Is this because I didn't get enough gluten develop during bulk ferment?


I think my question is when do I know when to start proofing and end bulk fermentation? When it doubles? I kept cutting a bit off and looking for bubbles and folding again (like Sourdom suggests) to judge.


Thanks a lot in advance for the replies and sorry for the "typing while I'm talking to myself" style message

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 January 3

Hello again olionel,

That bread looks just fine .  Pretty normal in fact.  It certainly doesn't look 'dense'.

The gluten development is good, you can see the thin shiny walls of the bubbles.  You can check for gluten development during kneading by doing the 'window' test where you can stretch the dough into a thin translucent window without the dough tearing. 

The different bubble sizes are quite normal though it is possible that some of the larger ones could have been formed in shaping but it is not a problem unless they get too large and interfere with the loaf structure.  A few large bubbles make good traps for butter and jam and all of those other things that aren't supposed to be good for you :)

As far as preparation times go, my rule of thumb is that, if you are makning a loaf from dough to whoa, then the starter peak time is a good basis and work towards half that time for bulk ferment and half for proving.  I work on that basis for the bulk ferment rather than other signs and adjust the length of proving. 

Obviously as the temperature that you are working at changes so the time will change.  The other thing that will affect the timing for the dough is the other ingredients.  My recent panettone took 24 hours for a dough high in fats, fruit, sugar  etc.  In all cases you should take notice of what the dough is telling you in terms of feel, appearance and volume.

Let us know how you go.


olionel 2012 January 3



Again.. after posting my last post (see the trend.. have a moan.. go bake) I baked another batch, this time I did my bulk fermentation properly and my crumb made me happy this time. The batons were the same size as those in the pictures but weighed around 200g - 230g (half a baguette so about right). This time I bulk fermented a bit on the counter then left it overnight in the fridge and I had many more bubbles in my dough and it had grown quite a bit. I think I'm getting the hang of the basics, I'll carry on. Will report when I do my next bake and see if I can repeat yesterdays success.


Thanks again for the help


olionel 2012 January 24

 Hello again;


I have been carrying on with the Norwich sourdough recipe from the wildyeastblog and it gets better everytime. I have a couple of questions, my crumb seems to be way more open around the edges and gets a bit denser towards the centre. Why is this? Not enough proofing ? Or is it to do with shaping? I've been baking round boule breads lately. 

Also my top crust in the middle seems to seperate a bit from the crumb.. i.e. when I slice it (more on the slices towards the middle) I seem to have a big air gap... Top of the oven too hot? 

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